How do you bring science to life for youngsters and their teachers? The University of Mississippi School of Medicine does it by pairing them with real researchers.
How do you bring science to life for youngsters and their teachers? The University of Mississippi School of Medicine does it by pairing them with real researchers and putting them to work on the scientists' actual research.
In a program called Base Pair, high school students and teachers learn to do cutting-edge biomedical research.
Since the program started in 1992, Base Pair students have co-authored 21 abstracts and given scientific presentations at a professional medical meeting. Three complete scientific papers have also been published. "The students do provide a meaningful part of the work for these papers," says Dr. Rob Rockhold, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and toxicology and director of Base Pair. "They are true co-authors."
Each year eight to 10 students enter the program. Most are high school juniors and seniors. Each student is paired with an individual scientist for a semester and participates fully in basic or clinical research for at least two class periods a day. Before they join the scientists in their laboratories, they take a semester class in their high schools, taught by a teacher who has also been through Base Pair. The class prepares them intellectually to work in a research environment.
Teachers in the program go through an eight-week curriculum that trains them to use biotechnology lab kits. The teachers then take the kits to their classrooms to teach contemporary laboratory techniques to students. This year Base Pair will be expanded to six teachers.
The University of Mississippi School of Medicine is not the only biomedical research institution seeking to hook students and teachers on science. Other institutions funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute that are reaching out to youngsters and teachers include:
• The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, which trains primary, middle and high school students in advanced Student Scholar programs, aimed at increasing math and science knowledge among students, including underrepresented minorities. Each year, a Faculty Scholar - a specially selected school teacher - works alongside Cleveland Clinic researchers.
• University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, where a program called Education for the Future provides community-based outreach designed to improve the quantity and quality of science education and computer-based learning in San Diego's inner-city schools.
• University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School, which provides on-campus biology and health-related activities for students in grades seven to 12, to better prepare them to succeed in college-level science and math courses. The goal is to enhance youngsters' potential for pursuing careers in the biological sciences and health care.